A unique piece of Darlington’s Victorian history will be back on public display over the Easter weekend.
Tees Cottage Pumping Station, on Coniscliffe Road, Darlington, reopens its doors to the public on Easter Sunday and Monday following extensive refurbishment carried out by the River Tees Rediscovered Landscape Partnership and Northumbrian Water, which owns the site.
The pumping station boasts a magnificent gas engine, which is more than 100 years old and is the largest preserved example in Europe, driving its original pumps. The gas powered internal combustion engine was designed and built by Richard Hornsby and is unique in that it is the only one of its type in Europe that is still housed in its original site and is capable of doing the job it was designed to do.
Dating back to 1849, the pumping station was built to provide drinking water for Darlington and the surrounding area. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument housing two completely original gas and steam-powered beam pumping engines in full working order.
The engines are housed in their own purpose built buildings, dating from 1847 to 1901, in themselves superb examples of Victorian architecture. Tees Cottage also has a blacksmith′s shop and Cleveland Association of Model Engineers runs model train rides for a small additional charge.
Northumbrian Water took over the pumping station in 1974 and converted it into a museum in 1980. Since then the site has been maintained and operated by a group of dedicated volunteers.
Phil Doran, chairman of Tees Cottage Pumping Station, said: "It’s great to have the site open to the public again and everyone here is looking forward to welcoming new and returning visitors over Easter.
"We are very proud of the pumping station - and the fact that the engines are still in perfect working order more than 100 years after they came into use is a credit to all our volunteers."
The River Tees Rediscovered Landscape Partnership, which has been supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to develop the river and its surrounding area through conservation and community activities.
As part of the landscape partnership, Groundwork NE & Cumbria has been working with the Friends of Tees Cottage Pumping Station and Northumbrian Water to secure the Scheduled Ancient Monument’s future by:
• Engaging with the wider community to increase visitor numbers at existing steaming weekends and encouraging new volunteers to support the site
• Introducing a schools programme to engage younger generations with our fantastic local heritage
• Increasing on-site interpretation and interactivities so that visitors can have a hands on experience
• Encouraging local volunteer groups to support the site by helping with the many maintenance tasks that need to be undertaken on a weekly basis
• Supporting existing volunteers through training schemes and with traditional skills demonstrations
• Exploring opportunities to increase access to the site, ranging from footpath improvements to virtual access of never-before-seen areas of the site.
Lucy Chapman, River Tees Rediscovered interim manager, said: "The pumping station is the only example of the three types of power used for water extraction; steam, gas and electric in Europe - and it’s right here on our doorstep in the Tees Valley.
"The Volunteers have worked exceptionally hard to keep the site open for over 30 years, and it’s been a pleasure to work with such enthusiastic and welcoming people to celebrate such a fabulous example of industrial heritage."
Other Tees Cottage Pumping Station open days for 2016 are: May 14 and 15; June 18 and 19; September 17 and 18; October 8 and 9.